Evidence From Social Media Won’t Be Protected in Civil Discovery

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Many people believe that they have the private rights to things they post on social media websites even though it could not be further from the truth. An appellate court ruled in favor of using social media photographs as proof in a recent case.

During a slip and fall case hearing, the store under investigation for the incident, Target, requested that they be able to use the plaintiff’s Facebook photos. The reason they gave for wanting access to the photos during the discovery period of the trial was so they could establish what the plaintiff’s life was like prior to the incident.

The plaintiff argued the point stating that she should be granted privacy. Her petition was denied on January 7th, 2015. The court ruled the mater in favor of Target Corp stating that the photographs can help paint a picture of life in a way that testimony could not. In the courts opinion, the photographs were necessary in the case and would be beneficial in all personal injury claims. Without access to the photos, the court would have to rely solely on testimony from others depicting what the plaintiff’s life was like prior to the incident in the store.

The decision was unanimous among three separate judges. Judge Robert M. Goss was even quoted stating, “If a photograph is worth a thousand words, there is no better portrayal of what an individual’s life was like than those photographs the individual has chosen to share through social media before the occurrence of an accident causing injury.”

To further solidify their decision, the judges reasoned that nothing posted on a social media website is protected by a right of privacy. Anything on the internet can be copied and used by another party. In fact, when someone posts a photo to Facebook, the company owns the rights for several years. To believe that the photos posted online are the property of the individual is a preposterous claim as the world no longer operates in this manner.

Target Corp. will proceed with Facebook exploration of Maria Nucci for the purpose of the case. Anything they find to be incriminating or as proof to disclaim the plaintiff can be used in court for the case. In Florida, this is an official ruling. In due time, this may well be be a law that all states must uphold in all court cases, especially personal injury cases.

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